Gaston Point community group transforming neighborhood

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They are helping the elderly, beautifying a neighborhood and teaching young people new job skills.

The Gaston Point Community Development Corporation is busy building and repairing homes.

The group is making good on its slogan: "Building A Better Gaston Point."

Americorps workers from across the country are breathing new life into an aging wood frame house on Dixie Avenue.

"By the end of the day, we probably will be covered in paint," said Maddy Hughes.

But that doesn't bother her. The future business major is, for the moment, a full time painter.

"Putting your efforts to helping others. And it's really fun painting a house that before wasn't in great shape. Now, if you drive by, and it only has the first coat of paint, it looks great already," said Hughes.

Home owner John Dean is mighty appreciative. At age 93, he's a little beyond the do-it-yourself days.

"It's wonderful. And quite a surprise. I never thought anything like this would ever happen," said Dean.

"We're trying our very best to make a huge difference in our community. And I think that's what we should be focusing on. Community and development. Improving our respective communities, particularly the place where we live," said Sidney Rushing, president of the Gaston Point Community Development Corporation.

Along with repairing homes for the elderly, the Gaston Point Community Development Corporation is also involved with new construction. The group has helped oversee the building of five new homes in the neighborhood.

The men building the new home on Beach Avenue are part of an education program that teaches construction skills.

"And this home is for a disabled person whose home was completely destroyed by Katrina," said Rushing.

Back at the Dean house, ambitious Americorps workers are enjoying the assignment.

"It's really great meeting people like Mr. Dean. He's an amazing man and has so many stories to tell. Just to be able to help him out and help his neighborhood look a little better, bring some pride back to the area. It's really great," said Shelagh Cunningham.

The Gaston Point community development group works with several organizations on its various projects.

The Salvation Army donated all the paint for repairing homes of the elderly. The City of Gulfport helped pay for the new construction with Community Development Block Grant funding.